Phoenie, Chris and I have been group-hugging since Phoenie was a little boy. When he first sees Chris and I, Phoenie runs to us, we each grab under one of his arms, we hoist him up to our hugging level and then we all squeeze tight and scream, “Aaaaaaaah!” It’s funny because none of us know why we started this or why we do it this particular way – all we know is that it really feels good and it’s a priority thing to do when we get together. It has most definitely become a family ritual and one of our friends recently captured the whole group-hug-thing in our doorway.
Ken Kesey, an American author who wrote, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” , made an interesting observation when he said, “Ritual is necessary for us to know anything.” Phoenix Slobodian, our Canadian grandson, expressed a similar sentiment when he recently said, ” When I do a group hug with Papak and Nana, I know they want to be with me and we like to growl together.” As my friends and I used to say in high school, “same diff” …I think Mr. Ken Kesey and Mr. Phoenix Slobodian are saying the same thing.
I was tutoring a high school student yesterday, helping him brainstorm about some sociological dynamics in the family unit and we got onto the topic of rituals. When I first asked him about rituals in his family, he couldn’t think of any but when I dug deeper, he started to reminisce about family activities that he readily confessed to being ritualistic in nature. We’ve all got ’em… and they’re good. We do know some very significant things as the result of these rituals because they provide some stability, consistency and predictability for us in an unstable, inconsistent and unpredictable world.
These little and not so little things that we continue to do over and over again – they bring depth and meaning into our lives. Phoenie once told me that he’s “going to group hug with Papak and Nana forever, especially because kissing is yucky.” Chris and I are going to remind Phoenie of his words when he’s sixteen years old and group hugging might not be quite so cool as a kiss!